There’s been a lot of talk lately in writers’ realms about the rapid increase in piracy of digital books.
I thought we’d talk about this today.
I haven’t weighed in much on this in the past, because pirated digital books aren’t unlike sales of used books or stripped books. Like the sale of stripped books – i.e. paperbacks without their covers – the unauthorized sale of digital books is illegal. That’s why it’s called piracy – the digital content is stolen. Typically, a user downloads the content for free.
The reason I haven’t gotten too agitated in the past is that I’ve assumed that – like used or stripped books – the people downloading pirated digital books are people who have no intention of buying the book new. I try authors who are new to me at the library or at the used book store or with remaindered titles. If I like their work, I will buy it new after that. I assume that there are lots of people on tight budgets who like to try new things and have thought that this was a comparable digital situation.
The big difference between used books, stripped books and digital books is that a digital book can be sold over and over again. A used book was bought once, at least. A stripped book has never been sold, but there are a finite number of physical copies in the world. Not so for digital books. A single digital copy can generate an infinite number of illegal copies.
This is having an enormous impact upon book publishing, one that has vastly accelerated in the past six months. It is not an understatement that publishing as we know it is in jeopardy. And I am thinking that this is because a lot more people who WOULD have bought a legitimate copy of a book are now buying pirated versions.
I recently received a statement for WHISPER KISS and the digital sales are way down from previous Dragonfire titles. It’s possible that these are early numbers. It’s also unlikely that sales would drop when sales of e-readers are growing at such an astronomical rate. So, while I doubt that pirates read the blogs of authors, readers and fans might.
I’d like to give you something to think about.
When you choose a pirated copy over a legitimate one, you might be happy to get the book you want for free. But what happens in this transaction is that the publisher does not get paid. There are a lot of people who don’t care much about this or worry too much about the profit margins of multinational conglomerates. There are a lot of people who think publishers set the prices of digital books too high. There are a lot of people who think that books should be free.
But when the publisher doesn’t get paid, the author doesn’t get paid.
When authors don’t get paid for their work, they don’t have a whole lot of reason to keep doing it. Or, they might have to get another job, one that doesn’t leave them time to write.
It is only reasonable for authors to be compensated for their creative work.
Here’s another thing to think about – my plan is for there to be thirteen Dragonfire novels. At this point, only eight are contracted for publication. If you choose a pirated version of DARKFIRE KISS, for example, over a legitimate edition, that may have a profound impact on the completion of this series. Books 9 through 13 may never be contracted or published – and if I’m working at Walmart to pay for my groceries, I won’t have time to write those books just so you know how the story ends. Even if I write them so I know how the story ends, I might not be inclined to give those stories away to the people who eliminated my livelihood.
If you like a series or the work of an author and you want to read more, you need to buy legitimate copies of the work.
So, think twice about the ripple effect of your choices.